Affiliated with the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI: University of Italian Switzerland), the Ticino-based Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) has successfully combined two natural antibodies against COVID-19 into a single artificial molecule. Known as a bispecific antibody, it simultaneously attacks two separate viral sites that are key to the infectivity of the virus.
As detailed in a press release issued by the USI, preclinical trials have successfully demonstrated that this bispecific antibody effectively neutralises the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the mutated variants that have recently been circulating across Switzerland and Europe. “A single injection of the bispecific antibody provides instantaneous protection against the disease in preclinical trials”, explains Daniel Ruzek from the Czech Academy of Sciences who was responsible for leading the preclinical antibody testing. In contrast with the single first-generation antibody, the double antibody also prevents the virus from altering its structure to evade the therapy.
“With these findings, IRB and Ticino consolidate their position among the world leaders in antibody discovery and development, especially against emerging and neglected infectious diseases”, comments Davide Robbiani, IRB Director and study co-author, in the press release. He adds: “Despite the limited resources, in comparison to big-pharma, we achieved our goals in just a few months”.
The bispecific antibody was developed within the framework of the ATAC research consortium, which is funded by the European Commission. According to the USI, the collaboration with the Rockefeller University and the Czech Academy of Science was instrumental in proving the bispecific efficacy.